Tag Archives: guest

My First Queer Church

Do you know what it’s like to be in a church where there’s only one heterosexual couple? If you’re like most of us, you don’t.

What you probably can relate to is being excluded by the church. Like me, you’ve been refused communion, been refused the opportunity to use your gifts, and just generally not invited to church functions that are not outreach oriented.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend The Lighthouse of Hope Christian Fellowship. I was insecure, skeptical as to what everyone being welcome meant, and was so hurt and broken by the Body of Christ that it seemed easier to avoid new things than take a chance. My friend Tori, a trans woman not that it matters….but let’s face it, it does, invited me for the weekend.img_1434

I was housed by her friend Jack, a trans man who has hand written scripture verses as artwork hanging all over the house. I was able to decompress from the past decade of suppressing my sexuality, be validated and be cared for.

On Sunday, we went for brunch like a bunch of cliche LGBTQ friends….but no, I did not have mimosas.  Then we went to help set up for church. Church happens in an old banquet hall at 4pm every Sunday. It’s a place where the motto is “Everyone is Welcome, and we mean it!”. This phrase is displayed on the overhead projector for all to see, and they really do mean it! There’s people from all walks of life, pets and an online church following. No one singles you out but everyone makes you feel welcome. There’s hugging, worship, prayer and communion.img_1439

Two things from my time at this church brought me to tears and healed my wounded heart for the first time in a very long time.

First, I was invited to play the piano after soundcheck was completed. See, my friend Tori that I mentioned before knew that I used to be a worship leader. She knew that I had been missing that part of my life within the church, and we got there early specifically so that I’d have that opportunity. At first, I felt awkward, and then something beautiful happened. I let my guard down. I played like I hadn’t had a two year break from the piano. I sang from the depth of my soul–from my pain, from my joy of belonging, from my burden of being one of the marginalized at the edge of the church. In those moments, I felt close to God again, I felt his love, I felt that my calling had not changed, and I felt at home.

Second, after listening to Sarah (a trans woman) bring a glorious truth filled word about God’s generosity and obedience in giving–we had communion. As the helpers passed out the wafer and the juice, I watched in awe as there was zero trace of pretence and awkwardness–as we sometimes notice in Contemporary Church. Each member of the congregation was keenly aware of the preciousness of those around them. I began to tear up. Each one of these folks believes that I am perfect as made and perfect in Christ. At no time were we asked to examine our hearts before taking communion. At no time were pet sins mentioned requiring repentance before God as a preemptive deed leading up to the Eucharist.

We were covered by grace, created in the image of God and therefore invited to remember how that good news happened. It was the first time I was invited to participate in communion since April. I didn’t realize how important those rituals, of remembering Jesus together with other believers, were. I didn’t realize how much I was in survival mode. Mostly, I just didn’t realize.

I’m going to go back.

More importantly, I am going to help the same thing to happen here.img_1430

Writer Wednesdays: Your Voice

Think of the stories that you tell your friends and family. What triggers you to share? I can think of three main reasons I share my experiences with others. Moving forward, I would like to formally invite you to consider a moment or some moments in your life that need to be share with others.

These moments could be tragic. These moments could be hopeful. They could bring laughter or they could bring tears. Most importantly, these moments are truthful.

What are the three reasons I share stories from my life?

  • I share stories to give encouragement

There are times in my life that have been straight out of a Law and Order: SVU episode. I grew up in rough circumstances. My choices as a teen were destructive. My young adult life has been plagued by trials, grief, illness and shame.

Yet, God has brought me through. I am an overcomer by nature and my blood type is resilience. If I can share who I once was in light of who I am now–my voice matters–it gives people hope.

  • I share stories to bring abundant laughter.

I’m hilarious. It’s true. Sometimes, I forget how funny I am. People get used to me. Then, I’ll be out at an event or in public and I’ll say or do something that’s classically Cheryl–and people will choke from laughter.

When life tries to suck the joy out of you, when all the news is bad news, when people seem to be negative for no reason–humour aptly placed can bring life. Just think of how much time we spend (waste) laughing at memes or watching Youtube videos. Laughter is the best medicine for many things.

  • I share stories to create understanding.

“What’s the big deal?” & “Lighten up.” are two phrases you wouldn’t expect are spoken to someone as laid back and hilarious as myself. Fact is, I hear them more often than is comfortable. You see, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve had a lot of hurts and I’ve helped a lot of broken people.

We might not know why something is important until someone tells us how it impacted them. Casually mentioned atrocities can cause deeps wounds in those around us and retraumatize them without our knowledge.

This is where you come in. Your voice, your story, your humour, your experiences can make the differences in the lives around you.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “you have no idea”, here’s your chance to give the world an idea–a new perspective. Who knows, you just might change a life.

~Cheryl

Radical 2.0

This is a post I wrote when I felt like I was at the bottom of a dark pit and the only way out was honesty. With LGBT issues taking centre stage in light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, now more than ever, it’s important to share our coming out stories. It’s important to offer hope, to offer solidarity and to hold one another up with love and respect. If you’d like to share your story, visit the Contact link in the main menu.

517bf-img_0884Just over a year ago, I came out as Bisexual to those who know and love me and then on social media. For the sake of Christian connection, I put myself back in the closet so to speak in order to avoid hard conversations, criticism, isolation and potential loss of relationship. In doing so, I became judgemental, defensive, angry and isolated. I ended up perpetrating all of the things I was afraid of happening to me to others.

Friends and family tried to reach out and be close with me. They called, texted and emailed regularly. I shut them out. I kept telling myself “they won’t understand” which really meant “they won’t accept me”. What I was forgetting is that many of these people already love and accept me…what’s more, is many of them suspected I was struggling with something that was bigger than my anxiety.

I’ve been a part of The Gay Christian Network for almost three years now, to learn more about them click here. At GCN, I’ve found people on all sides of “The Great Debate” as they call it. There’s a spectrum from allies and parents of LGBTQ+ believers to married and committed same gender couples. There’s opposite gender couples in mixed orientation marriages trying to make it work. There’s celibate Christians who take a literal approach to scripture. And there’s dating LGBTQ+ Christians who take a more liberal approach to scripture.

Here’s what isn’t there….judgement. There’s no inquisition. No need to defend one’s existence or choices.

There’s room to ask questions, find answers from all sides and chew on the heady stuff with Jesus. There’s many resources for scriptural analysis for both Side A (Same Gender Marriage) and Side B (Celibacy). There’s resources on how to have the conversations that are hard. Theres a community full of love and support.

What does that leave me with? Hope. Hope for reconciliation between the marginalized and the church at large. Hope for me, that I have a place to fit without feeling like a leper or having to have it all figured out. Hope for the kids that are holding back from relationship with Jesus because “Christians hate gays”.

I would love to have a discussion about how to support people who are marginalized rather than how to support that my existence (as someone who is Bisexual and a Christian) is okay with God.

I’ve chosen to remain silent for the last year because I’ve not wanted to argue. I don’t want to defend myself when people say “it’s not who you are”, “God didn’t create you this way” and so many things that are meant to be encouraging but really aren’t.

If you’d like to know more, I can hook you up with some resources:

The Great Debate-Side A and Side B
Kevin Garcia, LBGTQ Speaker and Writer, Lover of Jesus
My Personal Hero, Vicky Beeching +Vicky Beeching
Believe Out Loud, and movement removing the stigma for LGBTQ+ Believers +Believe Out Loud
Matthew Vines and I are not on the same page, but here it is anyway. I take more of a Side B approach. +Matthew Vines

Feel free to share and comment. If comments are hateful, they will be deleted. Let’s move forward in love and respect.

Since the original publishing of this article, many hurtful and vehement comments have been made regarding LGBT hate crimes. Hate crimes are never okay. They are never God’s judgement on people. Reading the Bible, we see that Jesus took the full wrath of God against sin on himself when he was nailed to the cross. To say that God is doling out punishment on people for simply existing as an LGBT person (even though I personally don’t believe it’s a sin), is to limit the power of Christ’s atonement. There’s nothing we can add to make that payment more complete.

“Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe, my sin was but a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow.”

~Cheryl

Writer Wednesday: Greg White

This week’s post comes from a man named Greg White. I met Greg on social media. Social media, especially Facebook groups and Google Hangouts, have become a safe haven for marginalized people groups of all walks of life to gain support away from those who would cause injury. Greg’s recent Facebook post resonated with me and many others. It’s a reflection on the events in Orlando after the media has moved on to other things. It’s a reminder of how people are hurting, not helping. Most importantly, it’s an honest account from someone like me. 

It’s been over a week since the events of Orlando, and it seems everyone has had their say. Forgive me if I’m late to the conversation, but I’m still trying to piece together my feelings about it. I find myself utterly heartbroken. While I floated through Sunday in a sense of shock, and even went to a candle light vigil in a strange disconnect, reality set in on Monday night.

I’d come home from work having spent the day in a numb haze, and decided to decompress by making soap. It’s a simple hobby, one that requires little concentration and lets my mind wander through the day’s events and prepare for the stressors to come. As the bars of soap began to congeal in their molds, I began to sob uncontrollably. I cried first for the victims, every precious soul gunned down in the Pulse nightclub. I cried for their families, for their friends.

Suddenly the face of every LGBT person I know flashed through my brain and all I could think was, “It could have been him. It could have been her,” and finally, “It could have been me.”

In the days that followed, I found myself torn by grief while tending wounds that I thought had healed shut. Theological debates about the six “clobber passages” regarding homosexuality came roaring back into focus. My sense of public safety was suddenly shaken. The true face of bald, unbridled homophobia was unleashed in that hail of gunfire, and in its wake, those sympathetic to the gunman’s hatred were emboldened to speak. Fringe public religious figures like Pat Robertson pointed their fingers back at the LGBT community, and some even praised the killings.

But most painful of all, my beloved denomination put out a well-meaning but tepid response. They were sorry and saddened by the events. They were praying for the victims and their families. But where were these words when LGBT kids were killing themselves? Where were those prayers as queer people were denied their rights, kicked out of their homes, suffering depression and religious trauma, bullied, or ostracized?

We have told our stories over and over, and it seems they’ve fallen on deaf ears. Does it really take the worst mass shooting of the century to elicit a response? Decrying the violence, the Church never even condemned the cause. They never said the words “homophobia,” “LGBT,” “gay,” “lesbian,”“bisexual,” “transgender.” And so, the only word that really mattered to me was the word they’ve used to describe homosexuality in the manual; “perversion.”

It simply isn’t enough to stand up against mass murder without condemning the more subtle, institutional forms of bigotry that enforced it. I’m not a pervert, I’m a human being. I’m not an issue, I’m a child of God. I’m not a problem to be solved, a policy to be debated, a statement in a manual or even an out-of-context Bible verse.

How could the denomination that I love so dearly be so tone-deaf? Maybe it’s politics. Maybe it’s blind conviction. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s a love too bewildered by a changing world to know how to express itself. All I know is that it doesn’t seem to be listening.

And yet, in the midst of all this heartbreak, I’m reminded of the text messages and phone calls from my sisters, brother, parents, friends, asking if I was okay. I’m reminded of the extra long hugs I received at church before I even realized I was going to need them for the week ahead. I’m reminded of my church friends marching alongside me in the candle light vigil, crying for justice. I’m reminded of my pastor, who preached repentance from bullying and lamented with me. His precious wife told me that she recognized my hurt, opened her home and let me know I wasn’t alone. Two friends had me over for dinner, let me pour out my anger and frustration, and made me feel understood. During communion, a friend looked me square in the eye, reached out, and clasped my hand in support. Countless conversations, notes of solidarity, and messages of comfort began to put me back together.

Is this what Jesus looks like? Is this what he meant when he said, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”?

I want more than anything for my denomination to understand, to listen, to learn to love more fully. I want them to recognize the depths of pain their policies cause, to recognize that homophobia doesn’t only manifest itself in bullets. Sometimes it looks like smug superiority. Sometimes it looks patronizing. Sometimes it’s disgust disguised as moral righteousness. And sometimes it’s a child learning to hate herself.

But then, I guess policies and manual statements were never really Jesus’ M.O. The Holy Spirit transcends issues of doctrinal and theological debate. And God, it seems, is reluctant to work through imperious power or righteous fiat, but rather through individual acts of love. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and my congregation, family, and friends have been that to me. I only hope the broader Church can one day do the same. I long for the day the Church can be that for each member of the LGBT community, and not only in times of crisis.

You can view the original post here. 

If you would like to be featured on Writer Wednesday, visit the contact link in the main menu.

~Cheryl

Writer Wednesday: A.M. Leibowitz

I used to get teased, back in school, for being a “lesbian.” Never mind the fact that I didn’t even identify as bisexual back then! I didn’t really have a concept of anything but gay and straight, and I knew I liked boys…a lot. Okay, I wasn’t totally boy crazy. But I had plenty of crushes! Even had a boyfriend in ninth grade, and I had a years-long crush on my bestie (er…if he’s reading this, as we’re still friends on Facebook, he now knows this about me…sorry!).

Except really, they weren’t totally wrong. Only I minimized it, hid it, denied it…all to make them more comfortable. To make them believe I wasn’t going to perv on them in the locker room (good grief, none of them were that special) or try to grope them or whatever (yeah, real things they suggested I might do). And naturally, my involvement in a religious community stamped out any sense that it might really be okay to like girls (gentle reminder, I had no concept of other genders back then).

Read the rest of the story by clicking the link below.

via No more hedging. No more hiding. No more closets. — A.M. Leibowitz